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Remedy's Thomas Puha: "You never know what's going to land on your launch date"

On this week’s GI Microcast, Remedy’s Thomas Puha said finding the best launch window for your game is harder than ever, as there’s no telling what else will launch alongside you and which of those titles will steal the most attention.

His comments came as part of a conversation looking at our interview with Ascendent Studios’ Bret Robbins, who observed that the company’s debut title Immortals of Aveum may have launched at the wrong time due to its proximity to Baldur’s Gate 3, which became a smash hit last August.

Commenting on the notion of there being a ‘wrong time to launch,’ communications director Puha said: “At some point you have to launch. You never know what’s going to land on your date.”

He acknowledged that moving the launch is sometimes necessary, as Remedy did with Alan Wake 2 last year – pushing it back ten days to avoid launching alongside Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.

” We wouldn’t get visibility on the storefronts, the media was only going to talk about [Spider-Man], and understandably so,” Puha explained. “That made sense. But we absolutely wanted to come out in October, make sure we hit the Halloween [window], make sure we were out before December, when consumer spending is up and more people are buying games.

“There’s also the awards seasons – when I was a journalist and you’re choosing games of the year, we were like ‘What came out the in the Spring?’ Nobody remembered. You want to come out in the Fall.

“We know all about bad dates – the original Alan Wake came out at the same time as Red Dead Redemption,” he laughed.

Even if you do move your release date, there’s no guarantee your game will fare any better since, as Puha puts it, “the wheels are [already] in motion.”

“You’re not just spending so much mental capital on all working towards the same date – and after four years, you really want that game out, it’s been long enough,” he said. “We could spend an infinite amount of time on each game, but you have to get it out and so much is lined up: publisher support, partners expecting you to come out, hundreds of things being lined up. So moving the date is difficult – and you never know what else is going to come out. Some companies can afford to just go ‘oh, we’ll launch in two months’ and you’re like, ‘ah, fuck.'”

Elsewhere, the conversation turned to expectations for new AAA games – including Immortals of Aveum – and the fact that its sales actually improved long after launch. Puha talked about how risky it is to sell a new IP at any time of year, but said the opportunity for long-tail sales is a welcome change in the industry.

“You go back a decade or so and the first two weeks were like 90% of your sales. And sure, always having a great start for your sales is great. The more sales we can get sooner, the better, obviously. But things have just changed a lot.

“Our best-selling month for Control was more than two years after launch, and that wasn’t just because it was cheaper. People have a lot of games to play, and instead of immediately a game, people decide to get it when the time is right. Maybe that’s when there’s a discount or something. We sold Control for years. We look at Alan Wake 2 [the same way], 2024 is all about selling more copies of Alan Wake 2.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t want a great launch, but units sold is not the same as revenue and as long as you can keep the price up so it doesn’t go down too much, that’s where you want to be. When we look at Sony’s first-party price points, they’re able to keep their prices pretty high for a pretty long time. That, to me, is really important.”

He also spoke to the fact that rising development costs mean sales expectations become higher, but if you can keep your budget to a manageable level, you can enjoy solid sales success without having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Alan Wake did have a significant budget attached to the game, but compared to anything first-parties and even other third-parties spend, the budget was still pretty sensible,” he explained. “The fact we have multiple games in development lessens the risk if one doesn’t do massively well.

“We talk about the complexity of making these games all the time and how to keep the budgets sensible. Next year is Remedy’s 30th year, and for an independent company to survive this industry for that long is just incredible – and to do that, you need luck, you need good games, and you need pretty damn good business management skills and relationships. Somehow we’ve been able to navigate all that.”

You can watch the full Microcast below, or download this episode on the podcasting platform of your choice (just search for ‘The Podcast’).

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